Comair Flight 3272

Coordinates: 41°57′48.08″N 83°33′8.39″W / 41.9633556°N 83.5523306°W / 41.9633556; -83.5523306
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Comair Flight 3272
A Comair Embraer EMB-120, similar to the one involved
DateJanuary 9, 1997 (1997-01-09)
SummaryAtmospheric icing leading to loss of control
SiteRaisinville Township, near Dundee, Michigan, U.S.
41°57′48.08″N 83°33′8.39″W / 41.9633556°N 83.5523306°W / 41.9633556; -83.5523306
Aircraft typeEmbraer 120 RT Brasilia
OperatorComair (as Delta Connection)
Call signCOMAIR 3272
Flight originCincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
DestinationDetroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport

Comair Flight 3272 was a Comair flight from Cincinnati to Detroit on Thursday, January 9, 1997. While on approach for landing, the Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia aircraft crashed nose-down 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport at 15:54 EST.[1][2][3] All 29 aboard, 26 passengers and three crew members, were killed.[4][5]

The cause of the crash was determined to be inadequate and out of date flight crew procedures for icing conditions. Some of these originated with the Federal Aviation Administration's failure to specify suitable minimum airspeeds for icing conditions, while some were Comair procedure manual defects, including superseded instructions on the use of de-icing boots that did not follow the aircraft manufacturer's instructions.

Passengers and crew[edit]

There were 26 passengers on board the Embraer 120, registered as N265CA. There were two crew members in the cockpit and a flight attendant in the cabin. The captain was Dann Carlsen, age 42, who was the pilot monitoring (PM). He had 5,329 flight hours, including 1,097 hours on the EMB-120. The first officer was Kenneth Reece, age 29, who was the Pilot Flying (PF) on Flight 3272. Reece had 2,582 flight hours, with 1,494 of them on the EMB-120.[3]: 6–8 


Flight 3272 took off from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport at 14:53. Less than an hour later, the pilots began the approach to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. The air traffic controller instructed the pilots to descend to 4,000 feet (1,220 m) and turn right on a heading of 180 degrees.

About 45 seconds later, the pilots were instructed to turn left onto a heading of 090 degrees to intercept the localizer. During the turn, Captain Carlsen made the statement "Yeah, looks like your low speed indicator," and asked First Officer Reece for increased power to the engines. Almost immediately, the aircraft abruptly stalled. It violently rolled 145 degrees to the left, to the right, and back to the left again. The pilots lost control, and Flight 3272 crashed into a rural field in Raisinville Township in Monroe County, killing all 29 aboard.[6]

CVR on Comair 3272 (* = Expletive; ^ = Unintelligible word; ()= background sounds)
Source Content
Captain Yeah, looks like it's your low speed indicator...
Captain Power.
First Officer Thanks.
Plane Warning *autopilot disconnect warning*
Plane Warning Auto-Pilot!
Captain Ohh Sh*t!
Unknown ^
Plane Warning Bank Angle!
Plane Warning *autopilot disconnect warning*
Unknown ^
Plane Warning Auto-Pilot!
Unknown (1594 Detroit to ^)
Plane Warning *autopilot disconnect warning*
Plane Warning Auto-Pilot!
Captain Holy Sh*t!
Plane Warning *autopilot disconnect warning*
Captain We’re gonna F*cking die!!!
Plane Warning Auto-
End of Recording



The National Transportation Safety Board very quickly has noticed similarities between this accident and American Eagle Flight 4184. The NTSB determined that the probable cause was inadequate standards for icing operations while in flight, specifically the failure of the Federal Aviation Administration to establish adequate minimum airspeeds for icing conditions, leading to a loss of control when the airplane accumulated a thin, rough accretion of ice on its lifting surfaces.

A contributing factor was the crew's decision to operate in icing conditions while near the lower end of the flight envelope while the flaps were retracted. Comair had not established unambiguous minimum airspeed values for flap configurations and for flight in icing conditions. They also, against recommendation of the plane's manufacturer, failed to activate the deicing boots on the wings. This was because the Comair Flight manual recommendation was in contravention of the manufacturers due to a concern over "ice bridging", a concern held over from older planes that was no longer valid on newer generation planes like the Embraer 120.

As the plane crash site is on private property, a memorial was built at the Roselawn Memorial Park in La Salle, Michigan, where unidentified remains of those killed in the crash are buried.[8]


The investigation into the crash was covered in "Deadly Myth", a 2017 episode of Mayday, a Canadian television series about air crashes.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Plane crashes in 'ball of fire'; 29 killed". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Knight-Ridder News Service, The New York Times, Associated Press. January 10, 1997. p. 1A.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Hughes, John (January 10, 1997). "Plane crashes in big fireball near Detroit". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. p. 1A.
  3. ^ a b "In-Flight Icing Encounter and Uncontrolled Collision with Terrain, COMAIR Flight 3272, Embraer EMB-129RT, N265CA, Monroe, Michigan, January 9, 1997" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. November 4, 1997. NTSB/AAR-98/04. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 15, 2016. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  4. ^ Wilkinson, Mike (January 10, 1997). "29 die in Ida plane crash". Toledo Blade. Ohio. p. 1.
  5. ^ "In crisis, Comair stayed on course". The Cincinnati Enquirer. January 19, 1997. Archived from the original on January 22, 2013. Retrieved October 21, 2009.
  6. ^ Hyde, Justin (January 10, 1997). "Investigators seek clues in plane crash". Ludington Daily News. (Michigan). Associated Press. p. 1.
  7. ^ Comair flight 3272 Cockpit Voice Recording (with subtitles), retrieved November 19, 2023
  8. ^ Kisonas, Ray (April 18, 2017). "Comair pilots visit crash site". Monroe News. Monroe, Michigan. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  9. ^ "Deadly Myth (Comair Flight 3272) - S17E02 - Mayday". Retrieved October 8, 2018.

External links[edit]